When BookCrossing first launched, I remember looking at it and wondering if it would take off. And it has. BookCrossing is huge. International. Many, many people are actively involved; they even go to BookCrossing conventions.

There have been the usual discussions of whether this kind of bookswapping helps or hurts authors. It’s an important question, but one with no clear answer. There are some obvious benefits — a book released into the wild may well be picked up by somebody who has never heard of the author. BCers believe that that they buy more books rather than fewer books because of BookCrossing.

Some readers resent this question even being asked. For them, authors who are uncomfortable with the idea of BookCrossing come across as greedy or self serving. In fact, authors are just people trying to make a living in a tough business. Of course the author has no legal right to any kind of compensation after the first sale of a given book. On the other hand, if readers don’t make an effort to support the author, that body of work will be short lived. A person who reads voraciously and never, ever buys a new book is a person who is not looking at the bigger picture. Are there many people like this? I don’t know. I wonder, though.

I don’t think I’ll ever get into BookCrossing in a big way, though it is interesting to watch the way books move around and how people respond. Today there are 131 copies of the Wilderness books listed on BookCrossing as ‘traveling’ or ‘to be read’ or ‘permanent collection’.

Anybody here involved in the BC thing? Anybody ever ‘caught’ a wild book? I haven’t, myself. I’m curious about people who have.


16 Replies to “Bookcrossing?”

  1. I buy new and used books. Often for me I get into an author through the used bookstores or thrift stores. After I come across an author I like I usually get obsessive and buy everything they have ever written. When this happens I usually buy new. In the past three months I bought about 15 used and five new books. If it weren’t for used books I would have lulls of no reading because I can’t afford to buy every book new. I only did the book crossing once. I wasn’t very interested in it because I like to keep books, not give them away

  2. Incidentally with your Wilderness series I bought all but one new. My Lake in the Clouds is from Half-Priced Books, but the other ones I got at Borders Books.

  3. Kelly — This post wasn’t meant as a criticism of people who buy used books now and then, for financial or other reasons. I’m just curious about people’s habits and what they think about all this.

  4. Here’s my usual flow for books.

    Almost always, the first time I read a book it was either bought used, or checked out of the library. I simply cannot afford to buy books just because they sound interesting. Someday maybe. Just about the only books I will buy new and unread are: 1) Books by an author I totally and utterly trust, and 2) classics, because I’ll want them on my shelf for our homeschool, for myself to read eventually, and of course to look more intellectual, right?

    Anyway. I’m a big-time re-reader of books I love, so if I like one a lot that I’ve checked out of the library, it goes on my To Buy list and I’ll purchase it sooner or later. If I find myself wanting to check out the book again, then I know it’s one for this list. Not only out of fairness to the author or convenience to myself, but kindness to the other poor library patrons who need a shot at it.

    I will occasionally replace copies of my secondhand books as well, mostly because, like you, I prefer pretty, nicely-made critical editions in new condition (with that new-book smell) to the frequently old, musty, tiny-print, cheap editions that I find when I’m shopping for used books.

  5. Oh, and about BookCrossing. I frequented the site often when it was new. I released a handful of books that were never caught, and I searched for a few “in the wild” books and never found any, so I sort of gave up. I haven’t been there in ages.

  6. I had never heard of such a thing before, I don’t think it would work where I live, but maybe in a city like New York or Los Angeles proper and only in certain venues like coffe shops. Personally it would never occur to me to pick up something if I found it. I would probably pick up a book and take it to whatever counter the venue used. If it was in a park or something I would leave it where it was. I would probably use it as a lesson for my young children, “see that well, we’ll leave it for the person who lost it, they will be back soon and be so happy to find it still there”.
    I read one of your posts that said you never buy a used book if the author is still alive, and I have tried to take that to heart, I’ll buy used if the author has passed away, like I did with Margaret Mitchell. I had a hard time finding Lake in the Clouds, called around to my local bookstores, refused to buy it used on Amazon, I finally purchased it from, but I got it and I loved it. I believe in supporting an author I like and I too purchase all books when I find an author I enjoy.

  7. Nearly all of the books I read are from the library, but when I do buy, I buy new. I wish I could buy all the books I love, but as a poor college student, I don’t have the money or storage space. On the other hand, I do use interlibrary loan (because the prestigious research university has a paltry fiction collection) fanatically, and frequently check the yes box on the ‘Should the Library consider purchasing this?’ …so I’m trying to do my part to help authors!

  8. The only book I’ve taken out of a lost and found box was Daughter of the Empire by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts. That one book caught me hard and I ended up purchasing six or seven other books by the authors as a result. I was working at a kids’ summer camp temporarily located in a private school. The front cover was missing and it had seen many better days. After the last group of kids had rotated out of the dorms, this was left behind. I couldn’t leave it orphaned…

  9. I think Bookcrossings is a good idea to introduce people to different authors. There is that really magical moment when you pick up a book either at the library or a flea market or maybe something like bookcrossings and you can’t put the book down. Its like the book has been waiting for you to discover it. I think most people in this situation would then go out and buy more books from this author. So I like the idea of bookcrossing but like another reader said, it could get frustrating if your book was never found or if you in turn never found a book.

  10. I caught a book crosser leaving a book at O’Hare and told her she’d left something behind. I’d never heard of it before that.

    I mostly buy books from used bookstores if I don’t know the author, then once I like their work I get new books from bookstores or amazon. I also usually replace new bought books with used ones if I’ve read them to shreds.

  11. i’d never heard of that before i read this…looks interesting! i’m going to have to pay attention now to see if i can find one when i’m in the city or something…i doubt there are many of these books floating around my little rural town…
    however, i dont know if i could give them up afterwards. if i find a really good book, i like to keep it so i can read it over and over and over again. and if i didnt like it, i’d probably just post it on so i could get one that i knew i wanted…

  12. I’ve been a member for ages but actually have never released or found anything. A couple of times I have thought about participating in a book ring there but that is about it. I actually don’t spend much time there at all really.

    As for books, my first point of call is the library. I have only recently started looking in UBS places, prefer to buy new when I buy.

  13. My husband loves bookcrossing! We went to a meeting when we lived in NYC. The way I see it is that they promote reading by providing free books! The members of bookcrossing all seem to be book freaks who buy used and new books all the time.

  14. I’ve seen the site before, but I don’t believe I’ve ever caught a book.

    It’s an interesting concept–much like Where’s George? for tracking a dollar’s whereabouts.

  15. I have released one book into the wild and have searched for some in the wild. i haven’t really caught any lately but it is fun. for me I get my books any way I can. I buy them new, used, freebies from the library, passed on from friends. I am a bookaholic much to my husband’s chagrin. it is a family trait. I get very upset when I see books in the garbage instead of being passed along to folks who could enjoy them. I think because sometimes I think books are alive they are like pets and should be cared for humanely. so I like the idea of bookcrossing because it advocates respect for books and gets people interested in books. It is also good when you buy more than one book to give it to someone else.

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